THE Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP) partners with various civil-society organizations (CSOs) in a bid to boost government transparency in implementing and monitoring projects aimed to alleviate poverty in the country’s rural areas.
As part of the initiative, representatives from World Bank, CSOs and PRDP conducted a participatory visit in one of the PRDP’s pilot provinces, Oriental Mindoro, from September 22 to 24. Along with this, training on geotagging was also conducted to equip volunteers the basic knowledge on monitoring using the tool.
PRDP Deputy Project Director Arnel de Mesa said the activity aims to test geotagging with the CSOs as a major tool in monitoring PRDP subprojects, as well as promoting transparency. He added that geotagging is a homegrown tool first used under the Mindanao Rural Development Program in 201 1 in response to the problems in monitoring conflict and remote areas in the region.
De Mesa also told the participants that geotagging can be used to verify and prevent duplication of projects. Moreover, it can be used as a complementing tool in the procurement system.
World Bank Senior Procurement Specialist Noel Sta. Ines said that CSOs’ participation, as well as of the local community, is important not only to prevent corruption and incompetence, but also to share the positive things that the government is undertaking.
He said geotagging can be used in various subprojects not only by the DA but also by other government agencies. With this innovation, project implementers will have scientific basis in putting up projects like farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems, farm-animal dispersal and reforestation, among others.
Oriental Mindoro Vice Gov. Humerlito Dolor, who welcomed the participants, expressed his gratitude with the assistance expressed by the DA through the PRDP.
Meanwhile, Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP) Executive Director Redempto Parafina said they are offering constructive engagement and social accountability through the initiative.
He said involvement of citizens in monitoring projects for the public can help enhance the government’s performance and credibility.
ANSA-EAP, is a nonstock, nonprofit corporation with geographic network composed of seven country convener groups in four countries—Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia and the Philippines— aimed at connecting citizens and governments to improve governance. It will serve as an intermediary between the DA and the CSOs involved in the project.
Aside from lecture on geotagging, the group also visited the Bagong Silang-Macatoc FMR Concreting Project and geotagged the area. The FMR is the first subproject approved by the World Bank outside Mindanao. It aims to support calamansi farmers and traders in the province.
Calamansi is the priority commodity proposed by Oriental Mindoro, which the province is known for. However, due to factors like farm- devastation from pest infestations, strong typhoons, unstable prices,
aging trees and, to some extent, crop conversion the production of calamansi in the province decreased in the past years.
Aside from the FMR in Victoria, other proposed subprojects under the PRDP for Oriental Mindoro are trading and processing centers and other FMRs to support the calamansi value chain.
The participatory visit was attended by various CSOs from the national and local levels, including Ateneo School of Government, Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology, National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, Partnership of Philippines Support Service Agencies, National Conference of Small Farmers and Fishers, and Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers.
Sta. Ines said this is only an initial activity and further collaboration is expected between the CSOs and the DA, and hopefully with other government agencies.
PRDP is a six-year rural-development project of the DA which aims to put in place strategic marketing assistance and infrastructure development to support the value chain of priority agri-products in the countryside.